- Get Briefed: I prepare a briefing book with the latest economic and business information on countries I am about to visit. I cull most of the information from the Internet.
- Arrive Early: For first-time visits, I like to arrive in a country on Saturday and spend the weekend wandering around observing people’s behavior. I gain a sense of the pace and the culture: how fast people walk, how they gesture when they talk, what they wear, what they read. It puts me in sync for my Monday meetings.
- Bear Gifts: In Asia, Latin America, and Africa its good form to present your host with a gift. It needn’t be lavish: a book about the city you live in, an engraved paperweight, or a silver business card holder will do just fine.
- Practice Humility: In many cultures it’s considered impolite to boast about yourself or your company’s accomplishments. However, talking about your children and asking about those of your hosts is a great way to bond. Also, work in references to your philanthropic activities. It suggests you will share your success with local worthy causes.
Call for Action
To facilitate intelligent conversations with people you meet on travel, be more knowledgeable about the place and people you will visit. Ahead of your departure, collect more information about your destination: its history, the surrounding geography, the heritage, famous people, sports teams, etc. Upon arrival, try to walk around your hotel or in the downtown and get a feel for your destination. This initiative will enable you to cultivate your curiosity. People you will meet will then feel you are interested in them, thus facilitating your interactions.
Practice being an informed business traveller—being interested.